With peer voting, 'Choice' fete gets Berman's stamp of approval

Milton Kent

October 30, 1998|By Media Watch

Every time you turn around these days, it seems as though somebody is throwing together an awards show. If it isn't actors or comedians getting together in a self-congratulatory party, it's the recording artists.

It's enough to drive you crazy, and Chris Berman feels your pain.

"I would agree. That being said, I think these are different," said Berman, referring to tonight's second annual Players Choice Awards (ESPN, 9 p.m.).

"I was skeptical at first about the ESPYs, and the ESPYs are a good night, and this is a good night."

The difference, in Berman's eyes, between all the other shows and the Players Choice Awards is that tonight's program comes through the auspices of the Major League Baseball Players Association, which conducted the voting among the membership.

"The ones [awards] I've won with my peers voting on them have always meant more to me," said Berman, himself a five-time Sportscaster of the Year and four-time CableACE winner. "I think it means something to them."

And unlike the Emmys or the Grammys or the American Music Awards, the nominees here actually show up to receive their trinkets.

In all, 10 awards will be handed out, including for each league's player, pitcher, rookie and comeback player of the year, as well as the man of the year award and the overall player of the year trophy, to be presented by all-time home run king Hank Aaron. Baltimore's Eric Davis is nominated for two awards.

The two-hour program, co-hosted by Joe Morgan and Harold Reynolds from the Disney Wide World of Sports complex in Florida, will also include a tribute to former Kansas City reliever Dan Quisenberry and former Orioles shortstop Mark Belanger, both of whom passed away recently.

Meanwhile, Berman, who is host of ABC's new "Monday Night Blast" pre-game football show from the ESPN Zone, said the program, which was widely panned in the early going, has improved immensely from an admittedly rocky start.

"I give the producers a lot of credit. They realized that we could do better," said Berman. "It's a work in progress, but I think we've done a much better job of moving things along since the first two weeks."

"Monday Night Football's" overall ratings are down somewhat from last year, but, ever the optimist, Berman said the numbers have to be placed in some sort of context.

"I think we have to look at all sports ratings with some sort of curve," he said. "I don't think numbers today mean what they meant 20 years ago.

"I mean, look at RBIs now. One hundred RBIs used to really mean something a generation ago, but now it's impressive, but hardly as big a deal.

"It's the same deal with ratings. Not as many executives slit their wrists over a 14 rating as they would have 20 years ago."

Well-placed praise

The job of most publicists and sports information directors, beyond getting out the good word for their clients, is to keep their own names out of the limelight.

For Chuck Walsh, who handles publicity for the Maryland men's basketball team, the task of staying unknown has become much more difficult.

That's because ESPN analyst Dick Vitale has become Walsh's biggest fan. In a recent Basketball Times column, Vitale called Walsh "amazing" and a "workaholic" for getting him updates on the Terps' summer progress.

Yesterday, Vitale told an ESPN Zone crowd that Walsh had given him the information that incoming guard Steve Francis not only had led two junior-college teams to unbeaten records, but also had played at six different schools, earning Francis a spot on Vitale's All-Marco-Polo team.

"Your SID, he made my all-time SID team. Chuck Walsh is unbelievable, baby," said Vitale.

Vitale's preseason special airs Tuesday night, and there will be more in this space from him next week.

Around the dial

On the docket for Sunday's NFL pre-game shows, ESPN's two-hour marathon (11 a.m.) will include a feature on the lonesome plight of kickers, and Baltimore native Melissa Stark returns home on the Ravens-Jacksonville game for "SportsCenter."

Fox will have former Colts great John Mackey in the studio (Channel 45, noon) to explain why the tight end always seems to be wide open in goal-line situations.

CNN, meanwhile, will dispatch John Giannone to Green Bay to chronicle the crumbling Packers. Funny, but they didn't look so crumbly last week.

ESPN2's Friday night boxing card, which has boosted ratings 127 percent from its predecessor, will feature an IBF cruiserweight championship bout between title-holder Imamu Mayfield and challenger Arthur Williams, as well as a look back at the trio of Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fights.

Pub Date: 10/30/98

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